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Q: Many years ago, we bought a Japp's potato-chip can at a flea market. Does it have any value?

A: Indeed it does. As far as I know, the cans have not been reproduced.

Readers may not know that Japp's was the precursor of Jay's potato chips. In the late 1920s, Chicagoan Leonard Japp began selling pretzels from a truck. I guess we could call him a food-truck pioneer.

Japp's wife developed a potato-chip recipe and soon they, too, were sold from the truck. After the stock-market crash in 1929, the snack called "Mrs. Japp's Potato Chips" was sold in 1-pound tins.

After Pearl Harbor, the name Japp took on a negative connotation, so the company name was changed to Jays. As collecting happens, original Japp's cans became collector items. And now that Jays is owned by Snyder's, early Jays cans are beginning to creep up in value. So the wheel turns.

Potato-chip cans are popular collector items. Associated with a favorite snack, the tins are attractively printed and bright. Good decor accents, they are pure nostalgia. As a Midwestern brand, Japp's (Jays) speaks to people from the area.

Checking a database on , we saw that an original Japp's tin with some rust sold for $142.40 on eBay last year.

This is a good time to tell readers that paying for short-term use of a price database such as may become the only way to view a spread of current sales results. EBay has adopted a new format that makes it almost impossible to review recent sales.

Q: What can you tell me about this doll I bought at an estate sale? It winds up and the head moves forward and back.

A: The reader adds that the doll dressed in winter red was used in an ice-cream store. Viewed in an image sent, she looks to be in very good condition. From the white hair and clothing, we peg her as a Mrs. Santa.

Smart collectors will recognize the doll as a type that dressed holiday windows when lavish displays were a competitive sport for department stores. Style and movement are typical for a circa 1940s-'60s window display. The number on the body is a mold number.

Then, display companies churned out a variety of animated figures for merchants. I suspect the shop owner got this figure for seasonal display.

When it comes to resale, collectors generally want a Santa pair.

Q: My mother bought this antique many years ago in an antique store, but I could not find any markings. Is it porcelain? Or ceramic? Who made it? Value? I can't get an appraiser to answer my calls. How do I get an assist?

A: Whoa! This reader wants to know a lot. For that kind of assessment, someone needs to eyeball and handle the piece.

Seen in an image sent, the piece seems to be a large bisque centerpiece. He writes that it is about 12 inches wide and about 10 inches high.

It's a well-molded piece showing a sea cherub leading a prancing horse of the sea and a chariot across undulating waves.

The finish is matte. Porcelain is a form of ceramic. I'm thinking that this is painted bisque, another ceramic. Fancy pieces such as this were popular around the turn of the last century and were made for a long time.

It really needs to be seen. Ask a local antiques seller that you trust.

Danielle Arnet welcomes questions. She cannot respond to each one individually, but will answer those of general interest in her column. Send e-mail to or write Danielle Arnet, c/o Tribune Media Services, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1400, Chicago, IL 60611. Please include an address in your query. Photos cannot be returned.